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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: February 17, 2003
Volume 38, Number 14


Institute of Public Law's Klett , Van Buskirk pursue the arts

By Laurie Mellas-Ramirez

Karen Klett (left) and Barbara van BuskirkOpera playing softly in Karen Klett’s office reverberates off colorful print-draped walls in Barbara van Buskirk’s space next door at the Institute of Public Law (IPL).

Perhaps it’s the serious nature of the work – IPL staff provide research, analysis, training, writing and publishing to support the development of informed public policy and law – that attracts the neighbors to the art world.

After IPL’s doors lock, Klett, training specialist, runs her business “Discover Opera” offering evening classes and travel to opera venues. Van Buskirk, institute administrator, also a professional artist, created the prints on view in her office. Her first solo exhibition is set this month at a local gallery.

Klett, with IPL’s Traffic Safety Center for five years, also brings art to bear in the state’s fight to reduce the incidence of DWI among teens. The bureau’s “Stop DWI Arts Program” has published three books of poetry with work by youth at detention centers and a home for runaways. One book intermingles poems by volunteer senior citizens brought in to share life experiences with the younger generation.

“It helps for the kids to know people on the outside who aren’t the old homies. It’s in everyone’s interest to support the kids in making changes,” she said.

Klett arranged for a Santa Fe Opera artist-in-residence to travel to Grants, N.M., to help young people set their writing about the dangers of DWI to music. She is developing a grant proposal to allow IPL to work with Albuquerque Public Schools at the detention center on a project that connects the works of Shakespeare to modern day dilemmas that are then scripted and performed by the youth.

“The arts help the kids connect with a part of themselves they may not have known was there,” Klett said.

In the evening, Klett teaches opera appreciation classes. “The students range in age from early 20s to their 70s. Some have never been to an opera while others simply want to learn more,” she said.

Klett also arranges tours to opera venues. On May 2, a group of 10 will make a trip to the Houston Grand Opera where they will be treated to Renee Fleming’s long-awaited debut as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata.

Van Buskirk joined IPL in 1998. She manages the administrative functions of the institute and assists 25 staff working on projects in a dozen realms including traffic safety, environmental and wildlife law, aging and judicial education.

“The soft money nature of the institute makes change the only constant,” said van Buskirk, who, prior to working at IPL, was with UNM’s Department of Linguistics and has worked in art museums in Massachusetts and Florida.

Her interest in art began as a child. She began college intending to pursue it as a major, but was discouraged early on. Although she had a knack for painting figures, she couldn’t produce landscapes to her liking to fill a class requirement. She turned to sociology and later earned a master’s in mass communications.

Van Buskirk momotype "Sensations," 2002.When New Grounds Print Workshop relocated three blocks from her home in Nob Hill several years ago she took it as a sign to get serious about her art, too. She creates monotypes, a form of printmaking that produces one-of-a-kind works on paper. She does her own framing – cutting and assembling all elements – using frames crafted by a local furniture maker so her pieces are completely handmade. Although she is now adept at flowery fields, her trademark is still figures. She completed a collection of peoplein cafes.

Organizational skills helped her develop her art into a full-blown second career – she defies the slacker artist stereotype.

“You can be non-linear and still be very organized. Artists are some of the hardest working people I know,” van Buskirk said.

In September, a monotype figure by van Buskirk earned first place in printmaking at the New Mexico State Fair professional fine arts juried exhibit. She took home the second place award the year prior.

“I think the arts make life worth living,” van Buskirk said. “People need to have some way to express their experience in the world.”
The opening reception for “Many Lives: Monotypes by Barbara van Buskirk” is Friday, Feb. 21, from 5-9 p.m. at New Grounds Print Workshop, 3812 Central SE. The exhibition runs through March 29.

Klett and van Buskirk have developed Web sites to showcase their talents. For more information, visit www.bvanb.com and discoveropera.com.